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Ancient Mediterranean Art

VMFA’s collection of ancient Mediterranean art spans more than 5,000 years of human history, from Pre-Dynastic Egypt in the 4th millennium BC through the fall of the Byzantine Empire in AD 1453. Our primary collecting areas are ancient Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman art but major works from the civilizations of Western Asia and Nubia allow visitors to discover connections that bound the ancient Mediterranean basin and its periphery together.

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These objects represent the major collecting areas of the Department of Ancient Art, from ancient Egypt, the arts of Greece, Rome and the Byzantine Empire. They include works that illustrate the cross-cultural connections that criss-crossed the Mediterranean and come from religious, state, and domestic contexts. The materials range from a beautiful Egyptian head carved from granite, a prestigious hard stone, to wonderfully worked examples of Greek vases made from the modest material of clay.


Myths – are stories people tell to explain the world around them, from natural occurrences to the activities of the gods, the structures of their society and norms of behavior. There could be countless versions of a myth, each of which is equally true. In ancient Mediterranean cultures, myths were the primary means by which poets and artists worked out their most profound thoughts; in doing so, they laid the foundation for ancient religion, literature, figurative art, philosophy, and science.

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Tjeby’s CAT Scan

As part of its scientific investigation into its collection, in 2013 VMFA worked with the private medical imaging company HCA and Dr. Jonathan Elias of the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium to make a 3D CT-scan of Tjeby, the museum’s First Intermediate Period mummy. This led to new insights into the life and times of Tjeby, who lived some 4,000 years ago.